Andre Dillard

Should Eagles be worried about Andre Dillard?

Should Eagles be worried about Andre Dillard?

No question the Eagles are doing the right thing cutting ties with Jason Peters. They’ve got to get younger.  They’ve got to get healthier. They’ve got to trust their draft decisions. I wrote about that a couple weeks ago.

That said, it’s easy to understand why the Eagles might be a little reticent to turn left tackle over to Andre Dillard. And if Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson needed two months of the offseason to make this decision, that’s understandable. It’s not easy to say good-bye to a legend. And it’s not easy to turn left tackle over to someone you may have some valid doubts about. No matter where you drafted him.

And let’s be honest. Dillard didn’t make this a no-brainer.

Dillard played well in his three starts in place of Peters. At times he played very well. In the wins over Buffalo and Chicago he even showed a strong knack for run blocking, which was the big question hanging over him coming into the league. 

The Eagles ran for 218 against the Bills in Buffalo and 146 against the Bears and those were both top-10 run defenses. That was by far the most rushing yards against Buffalo this year and 4th-most against the Bears. 

Dillard can play. We’ve seen it. I don’t worry about that end of it.

But then, just a few weeks later, came the right tackle debacle. 

When Lane Johnson was unable to play against the Seahawks because of a concussion, Dillard got the start, even though he had never played the position before.

It was a disaster.

Dillard never embraced the move. He spoke the Friday before the Seattle game about how trying to play right tackle was like a right-handed person trying to write an essay with their left hand.

That's basically it,” he said. “Write with your left hand. Think about how that would feel. … You do one thing one way for 10 years, like I have, then everything about you is geared toward that. You flip it, your brain's like, 'Oh heck.’

Football is hard. And let’s be honest. Dillard came across that week as soft. 

We’ve seen plenty of guys play right tackle and left tackle and just roll up their sleeves and just go play football. Heck, Big V did it. Todd Herremans did it. Heck, King Dunlap did it. 

When it’s accurate or not, Dillard came across as entitled. Like right tackle was below him. And then he played like it.

Dillard was defeated before kickoff.

Not surprisingly, he was benched at halftime. 

Think about the guys we’re talking about.

Peters was undrafted. Big V was a 5th-round pick. Herremans was a 4th-round pick. Dunlap was a 7th-round pick. Pryor was a 6th-round pick. Look at Dunlap. Guy was the 230rd pick in the 2008 draft but lasted nine years in the NFL because of his ability to adapt and get the most out of his ability.

The fact that Dillard, the 22nd pick in last year’s draft, couldn’t make that adjustment is disturbing. 

And really, it almost seemed like he didn’t want to make that adjustment. And that’s way worse.

The Eagles traded up for Dillard. They put a lot of money in his pocket, as Howie Roseman likes to say. They made a significant commitment to him.

And it’s totally understandable if that right tackle episode gave Doug Pederson, Jeff Stoutland and Howie Roseman some doubts about his ability to handle everything the NFL throws at you.

Dillard is a sensitive kid. He spoke after the season to my colleague Dave Zangaro about how mean the fans in Philly were and what an adjustment the NFL was after playing in Pullman, in “the middle of nowhere.”

Dillard can play. I’m convinced of that. I was encouraged by what I saw against the Cowboys, Bills and Bears. He’ll never be a Jason Peters, but he’s a capable guy.

I don’t worry about what Dillard can do physically. We’ve all seen it.

I do worry about the rest of his make-up. Because we’ve all seen that, too.

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Andre Dillard is ready to take over Eagles’ left tackle post

Andre Dillard is ready to take over Eagles’ left tackle post

After five minutes of listening to Andre Dillard talk about his rookie season, all the ways he’s grown and how he was able to deal with a brand new situation in Philadelphia, it was time to cut through all the fluff and get to the big question. 

If the Eagles ask you to be the starting left tackle next year, are you ready? 

“Yeah,” Dillard said. “I believe that I am.”

Good enough for me. 

The reason the Eagles traded up to draft Dillard with the No. 22 pick in the spring was to replace legendary Jason Peters. And, after one year, that time has come. Sure, Peters said after the playoff loss that he wants to keep playing and would like to keep playing in Philly, but he’s going to be a free agent and the Eagles need to move on. 

It’s time for the Eagles to say thank you to the soon-to-be 38-year-old future Hall of Famer and move forward with the young first-round pick. 

Dillard, 24, had some ups and downs during his rookie season. But there’s plenty of reason to think he’s ready. 

Sure, trying to start him at right tackle in the first Seahawks game was an absolute disaster. It got so bad that the Eagles benched him at halftime and went with Halapoulivaati Vaitai instead. Based on his comments that week and his play on the field, Dillard seemed overwhelmed by the request to switch to the other side of the line. That wasn’t great. 

But in the three games Dillard played left tackle, filling in when Peters had a knee scope, the rookie played very well. In fact, it’s that three game stretch — against the Cowboys, Bills and Bears in the middle of the season — that should have everyone feeling pretty confident about the changing of the tackle.  

I’m really glad that I got those chances because that’s what I was brought in to do for the future,” Dillard said. “It helped me get my feet wet a little bit and really helped me kind of gauge what it’s like being out there on the big stage in live situations.

Dillard admitted there was an adjustment period once Peters came back. He started three games, then had to go back to working with the scout team. But he understood the situation. 

Dillard and Peters became close this year. Credit Peters because he really took his replacement under his wing. That began all the way back at mandatory minicamp and continued throughout the summer and then the regular season. Dillard said it’s a relationship that will continue. If Dillard can become the true left tackle of the future, he can continue the Eagles’ line of impressive left tackles over a three-decade period from Tra Thomas to Peters to Dillard. 

And now that his rookie season is over, Dillard is looking forward to catching his breath. He went from his last college season to pre-draft prep to the NFL season without much down time. 

Transitioning from college life in Washington to the pros in Philly wasn’t always easy. 

“One of the biggest differences I noticed was the people,” Dillard said. “You’re at Washington State, Pullman, Washington, kind of countryside, middle of nowhere. You kind of know everybody; everybody is nice to each other, just super friendly. Then you come here and your own fans say just foul things to you. Everybody, fans, media, they’ll hate you one minute and love you the next. That’s the big difference that I learned. Just going from small city to big city in itself, it’s a lot different.” 

A lot of the work Dillard did this season was in the weight room. He still weighs 320 pounds but his focus has been on changing the composition of that weight, getting stronger. 

This year, he learned a lot about his body, about technique, about how important the mental side of the NFL and finding a routine can be. 

So how much better of a player is he now after his rookie season?  

“I can’t even describe it,” Dillard said. “I’ve made my biggest jump by far as a player in my first year here. It’s been an incredible learning experience.”

Come next season, it’s time to put those lessons to use. 

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Eagles appear to bench Andre Dillard to start second half

Eagles appear to bench Andre Dillard to start second half

It appears that Eagles rookie Andre Dillard has been benched for the second half against the Seahawks.

To begin the third quarter, Dillard was standing on the sideline as Halapoulivaati Vaitai came in to play right tackle. The Eagles hadn’t announced an injury. Dillard spent the last week trying to learn how to play right tackle and it didn’t go so well early.

Remember, Lane Johnson was ruled out for this game with a concussion and then Brandon Brooks left in the first quarter with an illness.

Now, the Eagles’ OL looks like this:

LT: Jason Peters
LG: Isaac Seumalo
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Matt Pryor
RT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Dillard is the only healthy offensive lineman on the sideline right now.

On Friday, Dillard said that learning to play right tackle after only ever playing left was like trying to write an essay with his non-dominant hand. Perhaps the Eagles should have spent more time during the summer and the season cross-training Dillard, but his role this season had been to be Peters’ backup and eventual replacement. Dillard was in a tough spot this week.

The Eagles’ offense, without several starters, hasn’t looked good this afternoon.

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